Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo – a Gem of the Indian Ocean

Ponta Dundo, and its equally radiant neighbour Pansy Island, are probably the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Baking-soda-white sands, set in radiating swirls of vivid blue of the Indian Ocean. Low-hanging blue skies and a sun that you can almost touch. It’s breathtaking! But there’s more to it that meets the eye. Aside from being an exquisite location for a romantic day at the beach, or even a wedding, it is steeped in history dating back to the Iron Age.

Pansy Island

Pansy Island

 

The Bazaruto Archipelago was once part of a peninsula connected to the mainland.  At low tide, the retreating waters expose millions of sand spits and tiny isles. One of the most beautiful of these ephemeral isles is Pansy Island – named after the sea-urchin skeletons with distinctive flower-shaped imprints found there. It lies hugging the southern shores of Bazaruto Island, opposite the rolling dunes of Punto Dundo. Rumour has it that during the Portuguese era, convicts would be shackled together and left here to drown with the rising tide. Nowadays, this serves a much more pleasant purpose – a unique destination for desert-island picnic, swimming and general frolicking in the sand for guests of nearby Anantara Bazaruto and AndBeyound Benguerra lodges.

From here, against screen-saver blue skies, there are views of the imposing procession of dunes that have for epochs protected Bazaruto Archipelago from being wiped out by the might of the Indian Ocean. These 30km of deserted white beach, is what is called Punto Dundo – one of the most important historical places in the area.

 

Historical Ponta Dundo

 

From a regional archaeological point of view, Ponta Dundo is regarded as a very special place. The earliest occupation of the Bazaruto Archipelago has its signs here, and traces back to 200-300 AD. It appears that these are the only archaeological sites of this period in all the islands along the coast of South East Africa.

 

The materials and artifacts that have been found here, suggest a connection of the Bazaruto islands with other coastal communities that were settled in Vilanculos Bay during this period. The discovery of Persian porcelain at Ponta Dundo, suggest a connection with the wider Indian Ocean commercial trading network. It is probable that the Bazaruto Archipelago was one of the oldest South East African Coast commercial centres!

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Ponta Dundo

Walking at the top of Ponta Dundo

The valley of Ponta Dundo

Admire the views from the top of Ponta Dundo in Virtual Reality!

After admiring the breath-taking views from the top of Ponta Dundo, we came back to the shores and made our way to Pansy Island. We were given the opportunity to have the whole island to ourselves. Not another footprint in the sight, we felt like castaways in paradise. I won’t lie when I say it was incredible, but I was happy that our skipper was just a wave away!

Pansy Island Beach

Not another soul in sight

Paradise found!

Travel to Pansy Island in Virtual Reality!

Visit Ponta Dundo when you book your stay in Bazaruto Archipelago!

Booking.com

Have you seen these?

Benguerra and Beyond

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the world’s most pristine beaches and a sense of wilderness in a sophisticated setting. It is no wonder it is frequently featured on the pages of Condé Nast Traveller and Vanity Fair.

 

AndBeyond Beach in front of the lodge

AndBeyond Benguerra Lodge

Benguerra Lodge first opened as a fishing camp some 30 years ago and slowly evolved into something approaching sophistication, yielding to the the demand of fishermen’s wives and girlfriends who objected to roughing it up in such a idyllic setting. Recently, the lodge was sold to a South African consortium, which cleverly engaged AndBeyond to create the ultimate romantic getaway. The result is a classy but unpretentious beach retreat that stands apart in the company of other resorts overburdened with cliché tokens of luxury.

AndBeyond Benguerra is laid out in a simple safari-camp configuration with a thatched main lodge fronted by a cheerful beach bar carved out of a traditional fisherman’s dhow. The resort is constructed in such a way that its guests, 32 at full capacity, feel like they are the only ones on the whole island. Each suite is hidden in the canopy of indigenous casuarina pine forest, with a private pool, an outdoor shower, and loungers offering front row seats onto the sensational sunsets over the Indian Ocean. The interiors are colonial chique and the rooms is cool and shady thanks to the wooden shutters that keep out the bouncing light of the sand and sea. It’s couples paradise.

Inside Casa Familia villa

Outside Casa Familia villa

Room service

Front row seats onto the sunset

Lunch by the plunge pool

Benguerra Activities

The lodge prides itself in its impeccable service, and staff take the time to get to know every visitor without exception. In the evening we head down to the beach where a restaurant has sprung on the water front, lit by a countless lanterns and complete with a butler for every table. We enjoy cocktails by the dhow bar and meet Erik, the activities manager. He tells us about the recent dugong sightings and anecdotes of living on the island.

The Indian Ocean here is fabulously warm and rich in marine life, with plentiful manta rays and whale sharks, schools of dolphins and loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. The Bazaruto National Park is also home to about 200 dugongs, Africa’s last sustainable population of the big grey mammals thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaid. Here at AndBeyond Benguerra, you will have the chance to go diving and snorkeling with these majestic creatures.

Map of Bazaruto Archipellago

Dhow Bar

Playing mermaid

Sunset

Among its activities, the lodge offers ocean safaris, diving and fishing excursion, as well as horse riding and traditional dhow cruises. It is even possible to arrange a romantic castaway picnic on Ponta Dundo, one of the most historically interesting islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago, with signs of occupation dating back to the beginning of the Iron Age (about 200-300 AD). But more on that later…

Ponta Dundo

 

After a day out exploring the natural beauty of Bazaruto Archipellago in the African sun, it’s a real pleasure to dissolve in the comfort of the suite. As I prepare a bath, any memories of the real world dissolve like salts. As night falls, we’re swallowed by the thick, velvety cloak of the starry sky and the incessant buzz of cicadas.

Bathtime

Book your stay on Benguerra Island.

Booking.com

Have you seen these?

My Bazaruto Fairy tale

My Bazaruto Fairy tale

Bazaruto Archipelago

 

Bazaruto Archipelago is a gem of the Indian Ocean that consists of five islands; Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue. They lie about 20 km offshore, between Vilankulo in the south and Inhassoro in the northwest. Since 1971, the archipelago has been protected as a national park and is managed by the National Directorate for Conservation Areas of the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Bazaruto, the largest of the island in the archipelago, is home to Anantara Bazaruto Resort, a world class luxury retreat, complete with a spa, tennis courts and a variety of activities, from horseback riding to snorkeling in the crystal clear ocean. The thing with big hotels, is that often they feel, well, big. Anantara hotel on Bazaruto Island is not one of those. From the moment you set foot onto the warm, soft sand, to the moment your boat takes you back to the real world, you feel that you are in a fairy tale that’s been written just for you.

Arriving in Anantara

Anantara’s 44 luxury villas, built from local materials, are nestled in the coastal jungle, in perfect harmony with their environment. As our boat gets closer to the shore, I start making out the thatched roofs peaking through the treetops. By the water, there is a congregation of brightly-dressed locals who appear to be waiting for our arrival. Upon reaching the shoreline, we are greeted with traditional song and dance, like long-awaited visitors. Unable to resist their energy, I join in the dance.  While I twirl to the beat of the drum and their song, someone from the welcome team is handing out cool hand-towels and glasses of fresh melon juice. I stop to enjoy the welcome drink. While I catch my breath, Thomas, our butler, loads our suitcases onto a golf cart.

 

Villa with Dreamy Views

We whizz our way past the reception, past the perfectly landscaped grounds, towards our Deluxe Sea view pool villa; 250 square metres of luxury hideaway with jaw-dropping views. As Thomas gives us the grand tour of the master suite, I stand absorbed by the shimmer of the ocean beyond the terrace. Turquoise and flat, it seems almost too beautiful to be real. “If you need anything at all, please dial 0.” Thomas advises. How could I ever need anything else, I wonder to myself.

Once I am able to bring my focus back into the room, I notice the exquisite setting. A four-poster king size bed in the centre of the bedroom and a curved standalone bathtub in the corner. The shower is linked to another outdoor shower. Everything faces the ocean. Outside, on the decked terrace, we have sun loungers and a plunge pool.

Snorkeling in Paradise

 

In the afternoon, we go snorkeling out on Neptune’s Nursery – a reef off the coast of Santa Carolina, affectionately dubbed Paradise Island.

When I jump in the water and open my eyes, I scream with delight, amazed by the diversity of marine life in front of me: clown trigger fish, box fish, angel fish, parrot fish, trumpet fish, gorgeous anemones and corals all in front of me, all at once.

The reef is a testimony to marine conservation and the hard work put in by the Bazaruto park administration and lodges to protect the local environment. It’s truly inspiring.

Silky Sunsets

 

We head back to the hotel for sunset and watch the sun go down from our terrace. There is a sailing boat slowly making its way back to the harbour as the sun dips into the ocean, leaving just a soft glow at the edge of the darkening sky.

Fine Dining

 

For dinner, we head to Club Naval where we were treated to another delectable dinning experience in a truly romantic setting. Soft candlelight bounces off the silver and dances in my glass of chilled South African rosé as I drink in the atmosphere. The starry sky, the whisper of the ocean, the soft tap of shoes on the polished wooden floors, the smell of grilled seafood drifting from the kitchen.

We start with ceviche of crab followed by a selection of grilled skewers – tiger prawns, chicken and prime steak. The very best produce, prepared to perfection. Chef George, a tall South African man with a warm smile and a solid handshake, comes over and chats to the guests, taking well-deserved compliments on the dinner.

After dinner, we sit on our terrace for a while, admiring the milky way and spotting constellations. The stars are so clear and close, you think they might start falling out of the sky right into your hands.

Day of Activities

 

The next the morning, we have a busy schedule – horseback riding followed by dune boarding.

We explore the nearby village and beachfront on horseback. Beautiful and well trained, the horses are an absolute pleasure to ride. We even get to dip our feet in the water!

After a short break, we drive out onto the dunes to try out dune boarding. I embrace my inner child and slide down into the valley, no hands, yelling to my hearts content. While the boarding is fun, the dunes are the real show-stoppers.

The smooth curves of white sand sit in stark contrast with the bright blue sky. In the distance you can see the whiskers of sand in the turquoises waters surrounding Punto Dundo. It is a wilderness that makes you want to run, dance and jump like no one’s looking.

We head back to the hotel before lunch, to freshen up after a busy morning and pack before we head to our next destination. As we gather our things, I feel a sadness coming over me. Like Cinderella before the stroke of midnight, I savour the last few hours in the magical world of Anantara.

When we board our boat back to reality, the same band that welcomed us breaks out into a melancholic song in Xitsonga, the local dialect, which translates to “When will they be back?” Brimming with emotions, I wonder the same, as our boat gains speed and the waving figures get smaller and smaller.

Soon, I hope.

Booking.com

Have you seen these?

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the...

read more

Where the Wild Things Are Pt.2

Bush Legends   The Greater Honey Guide is a small bird living in sub-Saharan Africa that is said to guide people to wild honey. The tradition advises that when the bird guides you to the bees’ nest, you must share some honey and larva with your it, otherwise next...

read more

Vilankulos – More than a Gateway to Paradise

Vilankulos – More than a Gateway to Paradise

Vilankulos – what’s in a name?

 

Vilankulos is a costal town in the northern Mozambique province of Inhambane, sandwiched between Inhassoro, Massinga and the Indian Ocean. It was named after a local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, but became known as Vilanculos during the colonial times. With Mozambican independence, the town was renamed back to Vilankulo. Today, somewhat confusingly, the district is called Vilanculos and the town is Vilankulo.

The landscape here is different to Inhambane – the rolling hills adorned with elegant coconut trees have given way to a flat, golden savanah sprinkled with stumpy baobabs and leafy monzo trees, used to make charcoal sold in sacks on the sides of the road.

We arrive in Vilankulo at sunset and to my surprise I find the streets full of bustle – people selling handicrafts and clothes out of their roadside stalls. Colourful rickshaws darting around the human traffic. Its liveliness reminds me of Ubud in Bali.

The town itself is only about 5 km long but has the highest concentration of tourism facilities on the Inhambane coastline. It has been a favourite with developers for decades, its iconic hotel Dona Ana having first opened its doors to visitors in 1967. The airport is based on the outside of the town with daily flights, providing an easy connection to Maputo and Johannesburg.

Although, we are only here for a stop-over on our way to Bazaruto, Vilankulos is a fantastic destination in itself. It offers a wide range of accommodation, white sandy beaches and the sun seeker’s favourites, including diving, snorkelling, dhow trips and kite-surfing. In fact, Vilankulos hosts an annual kite-surfing competition every September that attracts people from all over the continent and the world.

Vilanculos Beach Lodge

 

We spend the night at Vilanculos Beach Lodge – an oasis of lush greenery, thatched roofs and whitewashed houses that cascade down to the ocean. The hotel has only recently opened after a thorough renovation. It is now run by Angela, an energetic blonde with a South African accent and Portuguese heritage, and Damien, her French husband with kind eyes and excellent culinary skills.

We dine in the garden, just after the sun has set. The decor is a blend of European chique and African motifs, capulana place mats on white tablecloths, silver and crystal brought down to earth by wooden furniture.

We order risoles– a Portuguese take on croquetas – that come in a 3 varieties – shrimp, fish and chicken. As a main, we go for a whole red snapper, grilled and garnished with fragrant, roasted vegetables and a selection of sauces. As night sets in and the restaurant empties, I recognise the sounds of French chansons drifting through the cooling air. We eat slowly, enjoying the atmosphere and sipping on a chilled South African white. For desert, I can’t resist the lemon tarte – a cloud of merengue on a crumbling base with just enough sour notes to bring it into perfect balance. Angela asks if it’s our first time in Vilankulos, and suggest we watch the sun rise in the morning.

The Sun Rises

 

After a good night’s rest, we stumble out of bed into the garden at the crack of dawn. Angela isn’t wrong – the sun rises with such drama and intensity over the smooth water that you cannot help think of the Greek legends of Apollo hauling the fireball across the sky. The heavens turn lilac, peach and orange, and then suddenly, there is a flash of fuchsia, as the sun breaches the horizon.

Vilankulos to Bazaruto

 

After admiring the sunrise over the archipelago, we have breakfast among perfectly manicured lawns and fluttering palm trees admiring the sight of Magaruque and Benguerra in the distance.  It is a shame we cannot stay longer to enjoy the hospitality, delicious food and the glistening infinity pool, but our boat is waiting to take us to the Bazaruto islands. Just a short 30 minute ride away.

Booking.com

Have you read these?

Benguerra and Beyond

An exquisite piece of paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, &Beyond Benguerra Island is a unique beach holiday destination perfect for a romantic getaway. It is situated on the second largest island in the stunning Bazaruto Archipelago, offering some of the...

My Bazaruto Fairy tale

Bazaruto Archipelago   Bazaruto Archipelago is a gem of the Indian Ocean that consists of five islands; Bazaruto, Benguera, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue. They lie about 20 km offshore, between Vilankulo in the south and Inhassoro in the northwest. Since...